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How to Use Email Marketing to Sell Without Being Salesy

Use Email Marketing to Sell Without Being Salesy

Are you ever worried that your email promotions will come across too ‘salesy’?

Many professionals, authors, and subject matter experts want to use email marketing, but they are often more comfortable with their field of expertise than they are with selling.  While it is a limiting belief to view selling as inherently negative or slimy, some methods of selling are better than others if you prefer a low-key style.  The good news is that email marketing is the perfect medium for a low-key selling style, as you’re about to see.

Before we look at a 5 ways to use email marketing to sell without being salesy, let’s take a quick look at what not to do…

Hype: If you’re uncomfortable selling, you’re unlikely to knowingly write hyped up emails.  However, just as someone who isn’t comfortable on the dance floor can resort to awkward and bizarre movements when forced to dance for the first time, sometimes what people think is selling is in fact just hype.  Hype is like obscenity, we know it when we see it.  Exaggerated claims, too many exclamation points, breathless copy, and high pressure tactics are all hallmarks of hype.  Hype is also like using spices in your cooking.  The right amount can add flavor while too much will ruin the dish.  You want some excitement and urgency in your copy, but if you find you sound like a carnival barker when reading your copy aloud, it’s time to tone it down otherwise you’ll risk alienating your subscribers. For our purposes here, hype is not the same thing as selling.

Presenting your product as perfect: This is a form of hype, really.  When a sales person describes their product in such a way that it sounds too good to be true, there’s a reason for that uncomfortable feeling you get.  We all know that nothing and no one is perfect.  Therefore, it’s foolish to try to sell something as if there are no flaws or other alternatives.  Not only is that impossible to prove, it is unlikely to be believed anyway.  Saying your product is the best exercise program for people who are serious about working out is a lot more credible than saying it’s the best exercise program in the world.
Dirty Tricks: In email marketing there is a nasty habit of using dirty tricks in the subject line and in the body of the email to try to manipulate the reader into paying attention and clicking through to an offer.

Maybe it’s a hangover from the spam we’ve all seen over the years, but in any case, there is no point in using misleading subject lines or other tricks to get people to read or click because once they discover they’ve been had, they’ll be leaving, often never to return.

Broken Promises: All too often in email product launches and promotions there is a supposedly hard deadline when a special offer expires that magically keeps getting extended.  No doubt you’ve seen promotions where the deadline was, say, Friday at midnight.  Then, for some flimsy and self-serving reason, the marketer re-opens the offer for yet another limited time.  There are times when there is a real justification for extending a deadline, but it is the abuse of this tactic that has given marketers who use it routinely a bad reputation with their subscribers.  Even though fudging deadlines can bring in more sales, the resentment it breeds with those who bought on time and those who are lurking and watching, is not worth the extra one-time revenue.

Most ethical marketers really don’t need to be warned against using such tactics. Still, they’re worth mentioning anyway because often inexperienced marketers unwittingly mimic other marketer’s bad habits.

You may have heard the expression that we all hate to be sold, but we love to buy.  And the best salespeople and email marketers can strike the right balance where their subscribers are excited to buy and they don’t feel sold.

5 ways to sell without being "salesy"...

Perhaps a carnival barker or car salesperson might feel they need to use high pressure sales tactics because they may not get a second chance to make a sale.

But with email marketing you have the ability to automatically follow up with your subscribers indefinitely at a very low cost.  So if only for this reason, you have the opportunity to use higher level sales strategies that don’t produce as much heartburn in your prospects.  On the flip side of that, because email marketing is not face to face, there’s an extra level of skepticism to overcome, too.

1) Dialogue campaign: This technique typically involves more than one email where the first message sets up the second.  The key is to lead with a topic or story that is only indirectly about the product or service.  If you are looking to promote your own new product, for example, you could talk about the problem or idea that inspired the creation of the product.

Let’s say you write a newsletter about health and wellness and you know your subscribers are interested in learning how to overcome fatigue with natural remedies.  And let’s say that at one time you were struggling with fatigue and then you discovered a natural remedy after doing research on herbs from the Amazon rain forest.  You could write an email about the challenges you were having with fatigue.

Perhaps the story went something like this: You were up against a deadline and it looked like you weren’t going to make it.  Then you stumbled across an all-natural remedy from the rainforest and you felt tons of energy and focus and got everything done on time after all.  The focus of your email is that one doesn’t have to turn to coffee or chemical-filled energy drinks when natural solutions are available.  Don’t mention the product you used in the first email.

Now, if you don’t even mention the name of the natural energy remedy you discovered, you can bet that you will at least get some emails from subscribers asking what it is and where they can get it.  Then, you write the second step of this ‘Dialogue’ email campaign something like this…

You could explain that you liked the natural energy product so much you plan to eventually release it to the public at some point in the future.  However, since so many people asked about it, you’re going to offer a limited amount of the product to your subscribers if they’d be willing to share their success stories and feedback.

This tactic feels like a dialogue and your subscriber is getting to buy rather than being sold by the very indirect nature of how the product was introduced.  If you are an affiliate for a product, you could use the same tactic and offer to share the link in the follow up email, disclosing, of course, that it is an affiliate link because you believe so much in the product.

2) Ask your subscribers if they’d be interested: Whether you are thinking of creating a product, or even if you already have finished development and are about ready to launch, you can use this tactic.  Continuing the previous example, let’s say that you have a natural energy supplement.

You could ask your subscribers in a short email if they’d be interested in a natural alternative to coffee and tea to let you know. You could be coy about it and say you’re considering the release of such a product and if the demand is there you will.

You could let people opt in for a priority notification when the product is ready. You could take pre-orders.  Whatever approach you use, it is very low-key because it that allows your list to how you how interested they really are before you even launch your product.  In the off chance that there is little to no interest, you can take a look at the offer and see what the problem is rather than formally launching blind and then falling flat on your face.

3) Demonstration: This is a simpler variation on the first technique.  Depending on the product and the context, there are a variety of different ways to do this.  If you have software or something on your computer to demonstrate, like an app, you could do a screen capture video and narrate as you use the product.  This ‘show and tell’ is not only engaging, it is also very transparent and helpful.  Your subscribers will get to see the product instead of just reading about it and they can evaluate it without any hype. The key is to demonstrate the product or describe your experience with it so that the product speaks for itself and you don’t have to pitch hard at all.

4) Origin Story: Sometimes a product and a company have a compelling origin story that allows the product to practically sell itself.  For example, Tom’s Shoes is famous for donating a pair of shoes to the needy for each pair sold through their non-profit Friends of Toms.  The company was founded in 2006 by Blake Mycoskie, an entrepreneur from Arlington, Texas, and the concept got a lot of attention and made the shoes desirable.  Whether you are telling the story as an affiliate or simply sharing your own business origin story, it can humanize the marketing and help you sell without being pushy because of the power of the origin story.

5) Product Review:  This can be very similar to the Demonstration technique, but the difference is in the context.  Whereas in the demonstration you are actively showing your subscriber how to use a product, in the review you are describing your experience with the product in the past tense.  It is a more in depth story over a period of time that you used the product.  Credible reviews mix in what you liked and disliked about the product or service. This technique is really for affiliate promotions rather than your own products since it is hard to objectively review your own offerings (though you could share a positive review of your product by a third party with your subscribers of course).  If you are promoting a product as an affiliate during a big launch, or if there are many affiliates for a product, your candid review can help you stand out from all the competition and get sales.

There are of course more ways than these 5 to avoid being too salesy in your email marketing.

The key is to provide useful information to engage your subscribers so they want to buy instead of using high pressure tricks and tactics.

At its core, selling is just a simple process of saying that you have something to offer, tell your prospect what it can do for them and then tell them how to get it.  There’s no need for dirty tricks or high pressure sales tactics when you’ve got a straightforward offer that your subscriber wants.


For over a decade Heather Seitz used email marketing to build successful companies and had to solve the biggest barrier to consistent profitability: deliverability.  Today she is the Co-Founder and CEO of Email Delivered.

For more information on how to use email marketing to sell without being salesy,  click here http://www.emaildelivered.com/use-email-marketing-to-sell/ . Remember to sign up for the FREE Email Delivered Pulse newsletter for articles, tips, and recommended resources for email marketers.

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April 22, 2015


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